Audre Lorde once declared “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” In 2020, the million dollar question has become how can we care for ourselves amid multiple crises? Many artists answer this question of self-care with warm creamy imagery, but such work often overheats and curdles. Ronald Vill keeps it cooler and subtler — embellishing Havana pandemic scenes with blossoms.
In Japan, it is a contemplative art to cherish cherry blossoms before they wilt. As Murasaki Shikibu observed in Tales of the Genji (c. 1021), “blossoms of spring are all the more precious because they bloom so briefly.” Ronald Vill invites us to perceive 2020 through this mentality, superimposing sakura blossoms over otherwise banal moments like cooking in “In the Afternoon” (2020).
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Is joy a crime in 2020? Or might self-care reenergize us to keep on fighting as Audre Lorde intimated?
Living in Cuba, striking a faustian bargain with Castroism, Vill might have something to teach us about defiant jubilance. For example, cherishing a good book during the pandemic can become radical self preservation and “The Secret Weapon.” (2020)
As Vill explained to Hyperallergic, “I am not sure if I can find joy in 2020, but I try to. I am trying to find joy in my reality.” Each drawing’s vignette evokes that search.
Ronald Vill’s exhibition, El Zorro Y La Flor (The Fox and the Flower) continues through November 15 at Thomas Nickles Project (47 Orchard Street, Lower East Side, Manhattan) and online, until a vaccine is found.